Normally, the week of Prospects’ Camp and the Convention yields nothing more than a bunch of self-congratulatory hot air (though when it’s on the heels of a parade that’s usually pretty deserved) and a bunch of puff pieces about prospects that will never ever matter. This time around, the prospects that might matter only scrimmaged once so there wasn’t much to get a read off of. And the Convention actually yielded a couple things worth talking about, even if it’s just July Space Madness and we’re all speculating for the sake of speculating (and it’s better than talking about the asinine idea of trading Kyle Schwarber for a fucking reliever or the White Sox… well, the White Sox).
So first things first, and the drum we’ve been beating about Marian Hossa slotting down this season to be a checking line winger with Marcus Kruger.
You’ll get the impression this is something being strongly considered by Quenneville by reading this Tribune article. It’s something we started talking about toward the end of last season when it became clear that Hossa doesn’t quite have the spice in his step he once did, and a brief look in the playoffs did seem to click. Now, drawing conclusions of a couple playoff games is as dumb as assuming Richard Panik can carry it on the top line (and again, that’s galactically stupid) but at least we have a track record with Hossa to study.
This is not to claim Hossa is now a bad player. Far from it. Hossa can still be a dynamite defensive winger and a good scoring winger. The thing is, he probably can’t be both at the same time now. Getting him away from top d-men and really only asking him to be a checking winger who chips in 15-20 goals seems something he’s still more than capable of, at least more than being the all world 25-30 goal guy he has been in his time here. He just can’t be everywhere every night the way he was, even with a full summer off. He and Kruger together, no matter what palooka you put on the left side of that line, would be a nightmare for any top line of any team to deal with.
However, it leads to complications elsewhere. Even though it would have been in name only, if Hossa was still playing with Toews because a lot of NHL coaches are still dumb they would have drawn top pairings a lot of nights, freeing the “2nd” line to go nuclear as it did most of last year. As we saw in the 2nd half of last season for a decent stretch, when Panarin-Anisimov-Kane had to deal with top lines and d-men themselves, their scoring dipped. That was probably aided by Anisimov winning a faceoff per month and Kane and Panarin really not the type of wingers who regularly can get the puck back. With Hossa and Kruger paired, teams are going to know where the main danger is.
Now, Toews not having to face the toughest competition could lead to a bigger season for him, but at the moment he’s still slotted to play with either straight up trash or diaper-wearers on his wings. There just aren’t enough adult wingers to go around. If Kane’s line can’t produce heavily against the top pairings they’re going to see every night, the Hawks are going to be short on scoring, plain and simple.
-And then there was this garbage from David Haugh about John McDonough. I’m not even going to get into the Patrick Kane Redemption Tour tripe that I’m so tired of writing about. What should scare Hawks fans is the amount of personnel decisions McD talks about here.
Let’s be clear, John McDonough still doesn’t know shit about hockey. He’s less qualified to be weighing in on roster decisions than all of the writers of this blog, and I’d say 75% of the readers of this blog (and now I’m going to start a #FifthFeatherForGM campaign). There are some choice quotes here.
“He represented what people wanted this franchise to embody.”
Horseshit. Most Hawks fans recognized Andrew Shaw as a fun, good complimentary player who would go off the deep end from time to time. No one getting enough oxygen to the brain wanted a team full of this kind of nutcase, because you wouldn’t get anywhere. All most Hawks fans want is a team that wins, and an overly expensive Shaw would be a hinderance to that. I wonder if this idea that we’re all baying for all of our players to have GRITSANDPAPERFAAAARRT is why they keep employing dunderheads like Tootoo.
Anyway, McDonough goes on to talk about last season and whatever else, but here’s the bottom line on this. I’m fairly sure there are two signing in the past few years that were specifically McD driven, and that’s more than a hunch. One was Bryan Bickell’s contract, and the other was immediately handing Kane and Toews the largest cap hits in the league at the first moment of opportunity. Both of these things have meant losing really important parts to the team and may have handicapped the Hawks from winning ever again. But McD couldn’t let a playoff hero walk for nothing and he couldn’t not have Daydream Nation be the highest paid players in the league. Even a savings of anywhere from 500k to $1 million on each of those contracts would have made a world of difference in keeping Saad or Shaw or Oduya or however you wanted to play it.
If this organization is such a dream and such a model, shouldn’t its top stars be willing to take just a shade less money to stay as prime Cup contenders? You can’t have it both ways, McD.